Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Architecture Internships in India.

Internships are a crucial part of a student architect's life. Presently, the period of internship is for a whole year. It is very important that you get into a good architecture firm for your training, as that will have a huge influence on your future career. One learns a lot more during the internship than from the college, especially the practical aspects of the profession. So it is crucial to get into a good firm for gaining great exposure. 

I did my internship with Ar.Gurjit Singh in Matharoo Associates in Ahmedabad, which is a very professional firm doing some really excellent work and I must say that those six months really changed my life for the better. I learned how a real office works, how projects are taken forward, how one interacts with clients, meaning of professionalism etc, which you never learn in college. That internship really showed me how a professional practice works and how a student has to learn so much additionally to be ready for working in the real world. I can't state enough how important it is to get into a good office for doing your architectural training.

Today, it is very difficult to get into a good firm for internship. This is because there are so many students out there who are looking to get into these limited good offices. Presently, there are around 500 colleges in India as per the Council of Architecture's website. Assuming there are a minimum of 40 students per batch, that means there are at least 20,000 students who would be looking to get into various offices for training in a given time. Of course, a lot of the colleges have more than 40 students per batch and newer architecture colleges are coming up all the time. So the number of students applying for training is only bound to get higher and higher. The competition is really intense.

I can give you a small example. The firm I work in, Stapati, got over 750 applications for internship this year, out of which we could offer internships for only 12 students.... that is,only around 1.5% of the applicants got selected for internships! It is that hard to get selected for training in a good architecture firm.

So how do you go about getting into that dream office for your internship? I would say that it is all about planning and good preparation. You need to start early and meticulously plan your application process till you get into a good architectural firm. 

Ideally, your planning process should start atleast six months before the date you want to join for internship, if not earlier. The first step would be to start working on your portfolio. A good portfolio is the only way in which you could get selected into a good office. So work hard on creating a very well crafted, professional and creative portfolio which would highlight your skills and strengths and show your best academic work.

Parallely you should start doing your research to identify the good firms where you want to apply. This should be a fairly large list and shouldn't be confined to a handful offices only where you will apply. Always remember the competition is intense, so apply to the maximum number of firms. If you get selected for more than one firm, you can always have the option of selecting the one you like and not join the others. That is an ideal situation, for which you'll have to work hard and plan well. Select firms whose works you like. Do a thorough research to identify the good firms. Along with the work, take into considerations things like which city is the firm based, as the larger architectural scenario and culture of the city also plays an important role. Ahmedabad would be a very good city for the architectural intern. Likewise, Bangalore, Mumbai, Auroville etc are a few other places which would add a lot of value to your decision. One other factor to consider would be the type of practice and the size of the firm. There are small, medium and large firms out there, each with its own advantages and constraints. So do factor that also into your decision.

So once you have prepared your portfolio as well as list of architects to do internship with, you start applying to the different architecture offices. Generally you would be required to send in your portfolio along with your application. Some offices require you to email it while some others require you to upload it on their website, while some others even have a dedicated email id for sending portfolios. Make sure you send your portfolio with a good covering letter, to the correct option for each office. Ideally this has to be done 3-4 months before your joint date for internship. 
Once you send in your portfolio, wait for some time and probably after a week or so, give a call to the office to enquire the status of your application. Please be thoroughly professional in your approach. Also, be patient as a lot of the offices some times give the confirmation towards the end only. In the meantime, keep exploring newer architects and architecture offices and send your portfolio to these offices as well. You never know when you'll find the right architecture office for internship.



Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Ways to become a better architect

Refer good architecture daily - one only learns when one has a very good exposure to good design. Today, it is extremely easy to see good design and architecture, especially with some really wonderful websites and blogs on each and every topic. I often wonder at the musicians who practice daily to fine tune their art, even the dancers who spent an enormous amount of time perfecting their craft. But we architects don't do anything remotely close to that. Most of us think that once we get out of architecture school, we are masters , with everything at our fingertips. However, if one were to look at the really successful architects, you would see that they are constantly learning, constantly fine tuning their knowledge and craft. They are continuously seeing good architecture done around the world. For students of architecture, the easiest way would be to constantly refer architecture websites, especially those like archdaily, which constantly uploads new projects.

Be a voracious reader - not just architecture, but more so of fiction. Reading broadens ones perspective, it expands your mind. New ideas are formed, one becomes aware of newer developments, about different ways of life, about different thought processes. An architect needs to have a fine understanding of the society and the world around, to understand people and cultures. Reading helps one in that. It gives you depth in your designs and responses. Along with fiction, reading newspaper I'd another essential activity for an aspiring architect. You need to be aware of the world around you, about current affairs even about politics, for you to converse and advise your clients appropriately. For this, daily newspaper reading is an essential habit to be developed.

Sketch daily - sketching is an essential form of communication for any architect to convey his / her ideas. By sketching, it is not artistic 3dimensional sketching that is required, but more of good simple sketches to explain your ideas

Photograph daily - as an architect, it is important that one learns various aspects of photography like framing, composing, playing with light, scale, proportions, layers etc, which are all relevant for an architect. In today's world, everyone is a photographer. Smartphone cameras have evolved tremendously over the years to reach an almost professional quality. As an architect, it is also important to document what one sees around, as future reference. Photography helps you to create a very good databank, which will also serve as a ready source of reference material.



Monday, March 12, 2018

B.V.Doshi wins the Pritzker Prize!

B.V.Doshi has won the prestigious Pritzker prize, becoming the first Indian to do so. This is a much awaited recognition, one that was long overdue.

Somehow, all these years,  Pritzker juries have never turned their attention to the wonderful body of work done in India, especially by Doshi and also others, including his contemporaries like Charles Correa.

I was especially surprised by Alejandro Aravena's selection a couple of years back for his social housing initiatives, when architects like Doshi and Correa had done much more refined socially conscious incremental housing projects decades ago. We must assume that the only reason why Doshi and Correa were not felicitated earlier were because of the ignorance about Indian architecture in the western circles, and not due to any other bias.

Likewise, Charles Correa was another giant whose body of work truly deserved to be conferred with a Pritzker much earlier. Alas, he is no more. One can only hope that there may be an award posthumously.

But, Doshi's choice this year has been truly well deserved. He was someone who helped define a new identity for architecture for a new India, in the turbulent post- independence years. His engagement with a very broad spectrum of issues throughout his career and his masterful reponses to see issues defined the way a whole generation of young architects would approach the profession. He was even more influential through the school he founded - CEPT, which has continued to produce some wonderful architects over the years.

Truly, Doshi was and is a giant, who continues to inspire both architects and non-architects alike.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Should you participate in architecture competitions?

I think it's always a great idea to participate in architecture competitions, especially when they are free. One tends to gain a lot while doing a competition. Sure, it's a  lot of extra effort, but hey, it's totally worth it! You will start pushing yourself a lots the process, learn new things and widen your horizon.

Participating as a team makes it all the more fun and will help you learn working in teams and collaborating, which is highly essential today's offices.

Architecture competitions are also opportunities to let go and freak out with your design. Remember those wild ideas you had which you thought was absolutely cool, but which you didn't pursue for fear of your professor's wrath? Well, competitions are great opportunities to explore all those wild ideas, to really come up with innovative conceptual ideas without worrying about their practicality, cost and other aspects. 

And, competitions will help you improve your presentation skills, both graphical and written.

So let your hair down and participate in as many competitions as possible. Don't worry about whether you win or not. Unknowingly, subconsciously, you will grow a lot in the process of an architecture competition. And, there is always the chance that your idea and design could be selected and may open up a lot of opportunities for you! 

So don't think twice, go give your best shot for an architecture competition!  

When to start applying for architecture internships ?

That is always a very interesting question. When is the right time to apply for training ? The genuine answer to that question is that there is no definite time period for application which will grant you an internship in a good architecture firm for certain. In today's age, when there are so many architectural colleges and so many students competing for those few internship opportunities, it becomes highly important to apply early enough so that your portfolio will be reviewed properly. Most of the firms, especially the really good ones, usually finalise their selection of candidates for internships quite early itself and don't leave it till the last moment. 

The earlier you send your architecture portfolio the better. This is especially so because, this will give the firms a lot more time to go through your portfolio in detail and if it is good then block you or particular seat before considering another applicant. And in my experience, the portfolios send In earlier, which are relatively decent will always be be selected initially itself and the decision will not be reversed.  

Some of the firms, like Rahul Mehrotra Associates, clearly ask for you to apply at least 4 months prior to your date of joining. That means that you have to start preparing for internships minimum 6 months prior to your joining date. You will have to do your research and identify the architecture firms you want to send your portfolio to. Once you have your list of firms ready, you should immediately send your architecture portfolio and resume. You should ideally have a good number of firms identified to send your portfolio. You cannot decide that this is the firm that I want to work, so I'll send it here only. This is because, getting selected for internship in your choice of office is very difficult. So always be safe and apply to as many good practices as possible. 



Thursday, March 1, 2018

Is hand drawing or drafting knowledge enough for internships?

Well it's a no brainer really. While hand drawing skills are highly coveted in today's world, it is primarily used for designing and to a lesser extent for presenting your ideas to a third person.  

However, in almost all the architecture firms, drafting of drawings is done using softwares. Drafting softwares helps one achieve increased speed, accuracy  and efficiency, which is highly necessary in today's competitive world. This would have a direct bearing on the profitability of the firm.

As an intern or a young architect, it is mandatory that you know how to draft using softwares, as otherwise, most of the firms will find it difficult to accommodate you.

So, if you are still not up to date with your drafting softwares, I suggest that you start immediately. Learning a software is very similar to driving. You get better and better as you do it more and more. So start immediately because that is something which has a direct bearing on your value.

Why is an architecture portfolio life changing?

Let's face it, an architecture portfolio is your most important document to get that coveted internship position, or that first job. It is the basis of your selection into a good firm, the single document based on which 90% of decisions are made. 

Almost all architects make their decisions based on the quality of your portfolio. Most of the time, one doesn't get an opportunity to present your work directly. Thus, the value of a good portfolio can't be stressed enough.

Today, there is immense competition to get into the good firms of architecture for internships. Let me give you some numbers. As on February 2017, there are more than 500 architecture colleges in India. Now, assuming an average strength of 60 students per batch per college, that is a minimum of 30,000 students per batch in any given year. And that number is only going to go up as new colleges keep coming up daily. In such a situation, the competition for architecture internship positions in good firms is extremely intense.

The really good firms who are doing great work in India is again limited. So it is imperative that if one is serious about succeeding in his / her career, you have to get into these good firms for internships. This will mould you to be ready for the profession once you pass out and will make the search for the first job a lot more easier.

The firm in which you did your internship adds a lot of value in your resume. It conveys that you were good enough to get in there in the first place and that you've been trained well and will add a lot of weightage to any job that you are applying for. And the learnings will be incremental. You will grow up as a person and not just improve technically.

So give your best shot at preparing a good portfolio, one that will be compelling enough to get you that coveted internship position.